In a Bubble


My daughter said this afternoon, “Mommy, do you remember when we saw that dead rat on the street and its stomach had exploded and its guts were moving? Why were its guts moving?” 

Um. I’m not sure it was guts….

That made for an interesting discussion with a five year old in the middle of downtown Chicago. She won’t remember the museums or the parks or the Sears Tower. She will, however, remember the maggoty rat in the street. 

No matter how hard we try to create good memories, the most memorable are the accidental ones. 


72 thoughts on “In a Bubble

  1. I suspect she does remember other experiences to which you have exposed her – it’s just that they were explained and the “rat’s guts” were not. The other thing I have noticed is that kids relate best to that which they partially understand – the architecture of a beautiful building they can observe but not understand the process which created it. That said, she has no doubt had small pets the size of rats and even interacted with them – hamsters, bunnies and such. She has touched, fed, watched them sleep, read stories, etc. What happens to them after they are dead is a piece that can click into the already built model or paradigm.

    Kids also take delight in the nitty-gritty details of life. For instance when I was with my ex and her two kids -a boy about 9 and a girl about 7- we decided they were old enough to show them NYC, Boston and other east coast cities. They were born and raised in a small northern New Brunswick Acadian town. We parked and walked to the Empire State building and were surprised that it was LGBTQ parade day in New York and all 6 lanes of 5th Ave were filled with the parade. The kids were brought up very conservative in a strict Catholic environment and the parade was burgeoning with leather, whips, uncovered breasts, vagina and penis floats, etc. We stood waiting for a break but the floats kept coming. Eventually we entered the parade and were swept downstream as we crossed. The kids never once mentioned the parade and we were just introducing them to the facts of sex, so the parade was beyond my words yet.

    After the tour of the cities, we returned to my ex’s parents home in NB. The evening we arrived, my Mother in Law prepared a big welcoming dinner for us and we sat down with the extended family – including two priests and three nuns. After one of the priests said grace, MIL turned to the 7 year old girl and asked: “So Chantal, what did you see interesting in New York City?” I ducked my head and cringed, sure I knew what was coming. Chantal, delighted to have such an august audience, got very excited and blurted out: “Mom stepped in some gum at the Empire State Building and she couldn’t get it off her shoe!” I raised my head but that was it – the bullet had parted my hair but had missed.

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  2. LOL! I’m definitely weird, but one of my fondest childhood memories was watching some maggots take care of a dead rat. It was disgusting, but oddly beautiful too, efficient, clean. It also probably explains my goth phase as a teen ager, but my point being, try not to worry as a mom. Nature is just fascinating to kids. It’s us adults that tend to shy away in horror.

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  3. My grandson and I made dozens of trips over about a week to watch the progress of a rotting fish at the edge of the bay near their home. Some days we had to go three times. He was fascinated by the process. The Florida heat accelerated decay exponentially.

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  4. Yes. You bring back fond memories. 🙂

    We took our children on a trip to Europe when they were young. You know, to help form and mold their intellectual and cultural development. So what do they remember most? The museums? The historical sights? Nope. They remember seeing a woman with underarm hair and watching Bean on the hotel TV in dubbed Spanish.

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  5. You will be amazed at what they seem to remember the best. No matter how extensive the vacation planning, what my adult children speak of the most are things like hotel vending machines, shrunken head souvenirs left behind, street vendors, subway performances, the fat lady on the beach, sand castles, elevator encounters. ☺

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  6. I remember as a kid reading the Sunday newspaper about a slum landlord in London, UK. It was a warm day, all the windows were open, so I yelled out from the front room to the kitchen, where my mother was cooking: “Hey, mum, what’s a prostitute?” She said her eyes rolled, because I was always asking awkward questions, plus we lived in a close housing complex so all the neighbours would have heard my question clearly too. I don’t actually remember mum’s answer so I couldn’t have been that interested, just curious, I guess.


  7. Oh my, and eww. Having worked in Chicago for years, I’m happy to say I never saw a rat’s stomach explode. I almost stepped on one once. My boss pulled me away in the nick of time.

    Awesome telling of this.

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